When you gather six totally awesome writers and six totally awesome directors, the end product should be nothing less than totally awesome, right? While Batman: Gotham Knight falls just shy of the totally awesome mark, it definitely deserves a spot in the pantheon of animated superhero offerings and a place on your DVD shelf.
The movie boasts a host of comicdom’s finest writers such as Greg Rucka, Brian Azzarello and Batman Begins scriptwriter David Goyer and some of the (allegedly) top directors from the world of anime. I say “allegedly” because to be totally honest with you, my interest in anime pretty much peaked with Voltron and Akira. I’ve got nothing against the stuff, mind you: I’m actually quite impressed with everything I’ve seen. But in the busy world of geekdom, it’s just a subject I haven’t found time to become well-educated in. So when the back of the DVD package says that these guys are the top directors in their field, I’ve got to take them at their word.
The film consists of six independent segments offering different viewpoints on Batman, from some Gotham City youths to the new guy on the police force to Batman himself. Each segment has a different writer and a different director and while they can be watched separately, they form a greater whole when watched together. It reminded me a bit of The Animatrix for a couple of reasons. The first being that it’s made up of a bunch of different pieces and different styles, and the second being that it takes place squarely between the last Batman movie and the next Batman movie. The biggest difference is that The Dark Knight wasn't as much of a disappointment as The Matrix sequels were. But that’s neither here nor there.
While it’s probably not necessary to watch Gotham Knight in order to watch The Dark Knight, it does serve as a nice little bridge between Begins and its sequel. It gives us a few different looks into Batman’s psyche and what drives him to do what he does and the manner in which he does it. As a fanboy, I really enjoyed the little nods to Chris Nolan’s film. This movie features Lieutenant (not Commissioner) Jim Gordon, and a Gotham City dealing with the aftereffects of the Arkham Asylum breakout. Lucius Fox shows up, playing a role quite similar to the one he played in Batman Begins. We see a young Batman learning the ropes, and an expanded origin story that doesn’t dwell solely on the night his parents were killed, but also shows us the paths he took to become the Dark Night Detective, much like Batman Begins showed us his training with Ra’s al Ghul.
My only real complaint with the film is that despite the advertisements stating that it features “Six totally different versions of the Batman mythos”, it actually only gives us six slightly different versions of Batman. Not that I’m complaining about the artwork or the stories; but they really weren’t all that astounding in their variation. Yes, Batman/Bruce Wayne was drawn differently in each segment, but I got the feeling the animators played it a bit safe. I was expecting some real night-and-day variations on the Caped Crusader, but really only got some “night-and-dusk” variations. I was expecting the differences between segments to be akin to comparisons between Superfriends and Batman: The Animated Series, but it was more like comparing Batman:TAS to Justice League Unlimited: different, but certainly not a drastic change. Is this really worth complaining about? Absolutely not, but this is a movie review, so you have to expect I’ll find something to complain about, right? A critic’s gotta be critical.
At the end of the day, Batman: Gotham Knight is a worthy addition to your DVD shelf, especially if you’re a big Batman fan. It didn’t blow my doors down by any means, but it was an entertaining new addition to the Batman mythos and something I’ll definitely watch again. I’m hoping that DC and Warner Brothers will continue to release stuff like this in-between their movies, and more importantly, that they’ll continue to release high quality animated fare suitable for adults as well as children.
The two-DVD set contains a ton of extras. There’s commentary by DC Comics Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, former Batman Editor Dennis O’Neil and Kevin Conroy, aka “The Voice of Batman”, a sneak peek at the upcoming Wonder Woman animated feature two documentaries and four episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.
The documentaries include Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story, an enlightening look at Batman’s creator, and A Mirror For the Bat, the obligatory look into Batman and his rogue’s gallery that seems to accompany every Batman DVD release. I found both of these documentaries to be very interesting and well worth the extra price one pays for a two-disc set. Plus, you get four episodes of the animated show! That’s a lot of bang for your buck.